Those who have yet to visit Hong Kong can never imagine the experience. It has such a unique vibe to it, unlike almost any other city. Effectively split into two halves; Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, it offers a visitor just about everything they could want, from the ultra-expensive designer shopping malls and fine-dining restaurants to the back-street small businesses selling anything from cheap souvenirs, cut-price electronics, bespoke tailors and more.
Hong Kong’s skyline is up there with the best of them, with some absolutely breathtaking contemporary architecture, including some of the world’s tallest buildings, all adorned with lightshows to rival the best the world has to offer. Viewing the Hong Kong skyline from Kowloon’s waterfront at night has to be seen to be believed. Photographs just don’t do it justice as they simply cannot convey the scale of everything. When you can see ocean-going ships absolutely dwarfed by the surrounding buildings and illuminated signs the size of formerly record breaking structures you can only start to comprehend just how big everything is.
No trip to Hong Kong should be without a boat trip on the harbour. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is simply to take the world famous Star Ferry that runs between Hong Kong’s Central Pier and Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. It’s only a short trip of around 10 minutes or so, but it allows you to see the whole of Hong Kong Harbour from one of its best vantage points. The old ferry boats run day and night, offering a quick and frequent link between the two halves. Of course there are tunnels, trains and buses that will do the same, but none of them will offer that good old-fashioned visual experience that the Star Ferry does. At only HK$2.70 (around 25 pence) per journey, it’s a no-brainer.
A ride on the Peak Tram to Victoria Peak gives you one of the best views of the city you can get… and what a view it is! A winding harbour waterway bisecting mile after mile of huge towering skyscrapers stretching as far as the eye can see. It involves a bit of queueing of course, but the view from the top makes it all worthwhile. A ‘Skypass’ ticket costing HK$90 (around £8.50) gives you a return tram ticket and access to the Sky Platform, offering 360 views around Hong Kong island.
There’s no shortage of accommodation in Hong Kong either, ranging from cheap apartment-block Airbnbs to exclusive five-star hotels. Hotels are not cheap though and you don’t get a great deal of square-footage for your pound, but there are some mid-range hotels such as the Holiday Inn on Golden Mile which offer good quality accommodation and dining in central locations for not too high a price. We stayed in one of their recently refurbished executive rooms. These include access to the exclusive executive club lounge, where guests can have complimentary evening drinks, afternoon tea, a full buffet breakfast and a relaxed, less frenetic check-in / check-out experience. They even offer their guests free use of a fully-featured smartphone, with inclusive free local and international calls, and a data package which includes maps and tourist guides. The hotel is in a perfect central location just off Nathan Road and across the street from the MTA station.
It’s one of those must-visit cities which is constantly evolving, yet still keeping some of its traditional charm in little pockets here and there. The locals are very welcoming and friendly and when you get used to the omnipresent street peddlers offering their ‘copy-watches’ and ‘copy-bags’, made-to-measure shirts and suits and lots more, it’s a fascinationg place to simply walk the streets. You learn to simply dismiss them with a polite smile and move along at your pace.
Whether it’s for a stopover break or a dedicated visit, Hong Kong offers its visitors an immersive, full-on experience that they’ll never forget.